Saturday, August 22, 2020

Still LIfe with Robin: What This Pandemic Needs is a Baby Panda, Part 2

by Peggy Robin 

Last week’s column was all about how much we needed and wanted a baby panda to cheer us up!  We got our wish! Mei Xiang & Tian Tian’s tiny cub was born at 6:35 PM on Friday, August 21. Sex as yet undetermined, name to be bestowed (most likely according to Chinese tradition on the 100th day after the birth.


Of course the first 100 days of a panda’s life are far from a sure thing. Panda cubs are the most fragile of newborns, just 3.5 ounces, from a mother 900 times the size! You’d think something so tiny would be better off as a marsupial, tucked away, safe inside a pouch -- at least until they’ve got a few pounds on them. The newborn's so tiny, it's hardly big enough to be noticed; it can all too easily be crush by a careless movement. 

A student of the panda life-cycle, Peishu Li of the University of Chicago, has described panda newborns this way: “They’re basically undercooked.” Kinda makes you wonder whether the baby panda should have been a back-to-the-drawing-board moment in evolutionary engineering. Maybe that’s part of the reason we love them so much: It’s the out-of-scale strangeness of a giant bear producing this teensy pink thing that's smaller than a piglet. But far, far more precious and rare. And of course, off-the-charts in cuteness.   

Until our little cub is ready for its close-up, here's a look at what a baby panda can do once it's grown a bit bigger and can move about on its own. They do grow fast!


You can get just a glimpse of the newborn now on this Twitter feed from the National Zoo:


Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays. 

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